SGI-USA Men's Division Monthly Meetings
Suggested study material for November 2005
The suggested material below is excerpted from the eleventh installment of SGI President Ikeda's lecture series, "Lectures on The Opening of the Eyes," published in the October, 2005 issue of Living Buddhism (pp. 34-35). In this excerpt, President Ikeda discusses the Daishonin's resolve in facing and defeating the three powerful enemies. Suggested discussion questions follow.
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"The Opening of the Eyes" Is a Paean of Victory
"On the twelfth day of the ninth month of last year [1271, on the occasion of the Tatsunokuchi Persecution], between the hours of the rat and the ox (11:00 PM to 3:00 AM), this person named Nichiren was beheaded. It is his soul that has come to this island of Sado and, in the second month of the following year, snowbound, is writing this to send to his close disciples. [The description of the evil age in the 'Encouraging Devotion' chapter seems] terrible, but [one who cares nothing about oneself for the sake of the Law has] nothing to be frightened about. Others reading it will be terrified. This scriptural passage is the bright mirror that Shakyamuni, Many Treasures, and the Buddhas of the ten directions left for the future of Japan, and in which the present state of the country is reflected" (WND, 269).
At the beginning of his discussion on the twenty-line verse section, the Daishonin explains the significance of his undergoing the Tatsunokuchi Persecution. In other words, he starts by revealing his state of life in having vanquished the three powerful enemies. It is a declaration of spiritual triumph. This important passage signifies that "The Opening of the Eyes" as a whole can be viewed as a paean of victory.
In writing "this person named Nichiren was beheaded," he is declaring that his status up to that time -- in which he conducted himself as an ordinary person -- came to an end at Tatsunokuchi.
As already mentioned in the first installment of this series, the Daishonin is indicating here that at Tatsunokuchi he cast off his transient status and revealed his true identity. He uses the word soul to refer to that true identity -- the Buddha of limitless joy enlightened since time without beginning. His soul, he says, has come to Sado. This represents a declaration of his state of life, his towering resolve from his place of exile to henceforth, as the original Buddha of the Latter Day, take the lead for the widespread propagation of the Mystic Law.
He continues: "[Nichiren] in the second month of the following year, snowbound, is writing this to send to his close disciples" (WND, 269). The Daishonin began composing The Opening of the Eyes" immediately upon arriving at Tsukahara on Sado Island in early November 1271, and completed it in February 1272. The "close disciples" to whom he sent this treatise specifically refers to Shijo Kingo, who, with the spirit of not begrudging his life, had accompanied Nichiren during the Tatsunokuchi Persecution, but in a broader sense, it refers to all who had followed and fought alongside him up to that point.
Next, the Daishonin says: "[The description of the evil age in the Encouraging Devotion" chapter seems] terrible, but [one who cares nothing about oneself for the sake of the Law has] nothing to be frightened about. Others reading it will be terrified" (WND, 269). The first sentence is a statement of encouragement that although what is described may appear frightening, there is in fact nothing to fear.
Certainly, the persecutions by the three powerful enemies predicted in "Encouraging Devotion" are frightening. But once we understand the essence of the devilish forces behind these persecutions, it becomes obvious that what is truly terrifying is the devilish nature inherent in human beings.
In this treatise, however, the Daishonin, having risked his life to fight for kosen-rufu and subsequently triumphing over all obstacles and devilish functions, displays an indomitable spiritual state. Thus he says there is nothing to fear, not even amid the most terrible persecution or hardship caused by devilish functions.
The spirit to battle powerful enemies is the heart of the lion king. As long as we possess the readiness and courage to confront these negative forces, we can manifest our inherent Buddhahood and bring forth the necessary fighting spirit, wisdom and life force to achieve victory. For that reason alone, we have nothing to fear.
Accordingly, there is "nothing to be frightened about" (WND, 269) expresses the heart of the Daishonin (the lion king) and his disciples (the lion king's cubs) who fight alongside him with the same selfless spirit.
"Others...will be terrified" (WND, 269), meanwhile, refers to the hearts of those who do not practice with an ungrudging spirit and who are in danger of abandoning their faith out of cowardice. In other words, Nichiren was concerned that people who lacked firm resolve and commitment in faith would read the passage about the three powerful enemies in "Encouraging Devotion" and be overcome by fear and apprehension.
Cowardice is a state in which people have succumbed to inner devilish functions. This can progress to such a profound level that they eventually lose their vitality and wisdom and even find their whole lives tumbling inexorably toward defeat. The Daishonin sternly warns that we should not let this happen to us.
Ultimately, unless we undertake the same resolve as our mentor in faith, we will be defeated by devilish functions. This is why the Daishonin's call to his disciples to rise into action with a vow equal to his resonates throughout this treatise.
Suggested Questions for Discussion:
The Daishonin declared his triumph at precisely the time when most observers would have said he was defeated, even as good as dead, and as we know, he went on to manifest the victorious fulfillment of his mission after "The Opening of the Eyes" was written. What does this mean to you? How can we make this spirit our own?
President Ikeda says that the spirit to battle powerful enemies "expresses the heart of the Daishonin (the lion king) and his disciples (the lion king's cubs) who fight alongside him with the same selfless spirit." What does this mean to you in your own practice?
"Cowardice is a state in which people have succumbed to inner devilish functions. This can progress to such a profound level that they eventually lose their vitality and wisdom and even find their whole lives tumbling inexorably toward defeat. The Daishonin sternly warns that we should not let this happen to us." What must we do to win over our own devilish functions and not let cowardice defeat us?